In October, Hayden Panettiere entered treatment for postpartum depression. It was “big” news that a celebrity would be bold enough to not only admit that they were dealing with such a problem, but to publicly announce that they were seeking treatment. I undeniably was pleased to see the announcement, as it could certainly serve to help prove that mental illness doesn’t discriminate and is difficult for all whom it affects, and even praised her boldness on social media. The stigma of ANY mental illness is painful to deal with, so to have a celebrity suddenly in my corner was welcome.
Then in January, she showed up looking stunning on the red carpet at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
My ship sank.
Sure, I’m glad she’s clearly feeling better (or at least is able to pull off the appearance of feeling better) just three short months after entering treatment. But what I had previously thought when I saw that she was dealing with postpartum depression – that she too was in the trenches of not wanting to get out of bed…that she could hardly breathe under the weight of the debilitating depression…that she too maybe even questioned whether or not life was worth living – was blown to bits when I saw this.
It’s probably sad that I put so much stake on the fact that a celebrity was suffering the same as me, sure, but when you’re hurting it’s sometimes nice to know you’re not alone (regardless of who it is that is ‘there’ also.) But it also ‘hurt’ for other reasons.
Here’s this bold celebrity, touted for her courageous announcement of suffering, was, for all intents and purposes, ALL BETTER! Just 3 months later! Woo hoo! No. It doesn’t happen that way, at least not for everyone. There are several factors that I think played into this – like the fact that she crossed the magical 1 year post-delivery mark that for many suffering with ppd seems to be when the fog lifts and the depression gets better regardless of treatment. And she is likely surrounded by a team of people that physically help her get out of bed every morning to work out, cook her stabilizing meals that aid in healing, and help take care of her child when she needs a break, and so on, i.e., help most of us don’t have. Whatever the case may be for her to appear so flawless and recovered sets up a falsehood of what ppd recovery looks like for most people which is disturbing because now the world can look to her and think, “oh, it’s really not a big deal then. Hayden Panettiere can get over it in just 3 months!” Again, NO.
But possibly worse, even knowing the things above, seeing her bright and shiny and glowing on that red carpet made me wonder why I wasn’t better – why I wasn’t even close. If I thought had to appear on a red carpet just three months after seeking treatment for my ppd, I would have hid in my closet, curled up in a ball crying. Everyday life was still difficult for me. My mind was nowhere near clear. My body was still nowhere near my own. I have some help, so why wasn’t I getting better faster? I mean, if she could do it, why couldn’t I? Even I was starting to believe the falsehoods.
But we’re not all Hayden Panettiere. I’m certainly not. Am I getting better? Yes, slowly. Very slowly. Medicine trials were basically a wasted six months (which included the holidays) and put me through further hell with many unwanted side effects and little benefit. (I’m working with excellent doctors – my body just didn’t respond favorably this time.) I’m still living in a body covered in a fat suit and don’t recognize myself, but that is also slowly improving as the chemicals and hormones in my body and brain continue to level out. Circumstances have not been in my favor as sickness seems to love my children and my tired self hardly has time to recover from one thing to the next. I continue to get frustrated as I have a few “good” days and then I feel the lead creeping back into my blood and all motivation suddenly drops me like an old hat. I feel like a disappointment to so many because I’m not myself ‘by now.’
Yet let me say this: I’m fighting like hell. I’m doing everything I know how to try to find not only who I used to be, but an even better version of her. I know this season will pass and other seasons will come and go, potentially dragging me through the mud again, but I won’t stop fighting. During some of my darkest days I didn’t want to fight anymore – I didn’t see the point. But I’m past that now. I’m ready to see the benefit of all of this suffering and find a way to somehow make good of it. I’m ready to stop apologizing for something I have no control over – just like getting the flu or any other illness, I had no control over suffering through ppd or any other mental illness for that matter. I’m ready for others to see MY journey and realize that there is no perfect timeframe or method for getting through it – you just have to fight. I’m ready to experience JOY again and find ALL THE JOY God has in store for me and my family. I’m ready to see God’s glory somehow shine out of my pain because I KNOW he didn’t send me down this path for no reason.
Yes, I will get tired – any warrior does – and will need help to restore my strength, to be reminded of the worth in fighting. But I know God will be there to provide that strength, some way, some how.